How cancer treatment can affect your heart

Only some cancer treatments affect the function of the heart. They may have an immediate effect on the heart or not cause heart problems until many years later. It’s very important to discuss the risks and benefits of your treatment with your cancer doctor (oncologist) before you start it.

The way that cancer treatments affect the heart depends on many factors, including:

  • The treatment and total dose of the treatment.
  • The age you have treatment. The risk is higher in older people or very young people. Children who have cancer treatment at a young age have a greater risk of developing heart disease later in life.
  • If you have risk factors that can affect the health of your heart. For example, if you smoke or are overweight. You can help protect your heart during treatment by choosing a healthy lifestyle.
  • If you already have a heart condition and have cancer treatment, you have a higher risk of developing further heart problems during or after treatment. Your doctors may not give you certain cancer treatments if they think they are likely to cause further damage to your heart.
  • If you have more than one cancer treatment that is known to affect the heart.
  • If you had previous cancer treatment that may have affected your heart and then you need further treatment that may also affect your heart. This could happen if you develop a new cancer or if your cancer comes back.

In this section, we list different cancer treatments that may have an effect on your heart. Talk to your cancer doctor if you’re worried about any aspect of your treatment. If your treatment has finished and you have concerns about your heart health, visit your GP. If you don’t remember the names of the specific cancer treatments you’ve had, ask your cancer doctor or nurse to give you a list of them.

Working together to create information for you

We worked with British Heart Foundation to write our content on heart health.

Thank you to all of the people affected by cancer who reviewed what you're reading and have helped our information to develop.

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Back to Cancer treatment and your heart

Chemotherapy

A few chemotherapy drugs affect the heart. Your hospital team will talk to you about any risks of the drugs you’re having.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy only affects the heart if it’s in the area treated. Improvements in radiotherapy treatment have reduced the risk of problems.

Hormonal therapies

Treatment with hormonal therapies can sometimes increase the risk of heart problems.

Surgery for cancer

You’ll usually have tests to check your heart before you have an operation to treat a cancer.

Cancer research trials

If you take part in a clinical trial, you will have regular checks for any side effects.

Managing heart problems

If you have heart problems during cancer treatment, your doctors will help you decide on the best way to manage them.